Continuing our traditional series of guest Best of the Year posts (a different writer, artist, editor etc every day through December, then the blog crew’s own selections), following Brick and Robin Etherington’s picks (see here for the 2014 series so far) today we have the delightfully wicked cartoonist and illustrator and general naughty boy Krent Able choosing some of his favourites from 2014:
FPI: Can you pick three comics/graphic novels which you have especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Krent: Beautiful Darkness– Fabian Vehlmann & Kerascoet. The best comic book I’ve read this year. A society of tiny fairytale folk live inside a girl’s dead body in a forest, but they have to go out into the wilderness and fend for themselves after the body starts to decay and become uninhabitable. A great looking book, it’s beautifully painted in watercolour and looks like a children’s fairytale, although it gets quite disturbing. It reminded me a lot of Lord Of The Flies, the way it shows how amoral and evil people can be when they’re put in a bit of a tight spot.
That’s Because You’re A Robot- Shaky Kane and David Quantick. A stupid/clever, postmodern Pop Art comic about a couple of future cops trying to find out which one of them is a robot, and crack some kind of nonsensical case. The story and dialogue are pretty funny, but it’s the art that’s the main draw for me – I can see obvious Kirby/Geof Darrow/Pop Art influences there, but Mr. Kane makes it all his own. I love the way it’s so deadpan – the characters all remind me of action figures and the vehicles and cities look like toys. It’s bright, joyful and inventive and you can feel a lot of love for comics coming through, but it’s weirdly blank at the same time. It’s a bit like it was actually drawn and coloured by a robot. Here’s my favourite panel (see below), purely for that guys legs at the bottom right. Cracks me up every time.
Pim & Francie– Al Columbia. Not from this year – it’s from 2009, but I just got it and it’s a beauty. It looks like musty old animation cels from the 1920s that have perhaps been discovered in a madman’s shack, chronicling the appalling adventures of the titular scamps, Pim And Francie. It’s really quite horrible and nightmarish, but the art is insanely good. A lot of it looks like it’s been ripped up and stuck back together by the artist in a fit of frustration, and you can see all the pencils and white-out. There’s nothing fake about it, it doesn’t look like a pose, it looks like genuine darkness, madness and genius. Good stuff!
FPI: Can you pick 3 books which you have especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Krent: Joe Abercrombie-The Heroes. This is the only new book that I’ve read this year, but it’s a cracker. It’s fantasy, but without the silly dragons. Gritty, dirty and realistic, with a multitude of great characters whose stories all intertwine nicely. Very cleverly written and intricately plotted, with some very funny dialogue and loads of lovely ultraviolence. A great read.
Ubik- Philip K Dick (1969). I’ve read a fair bit of Dick’s stuff over the years, but I’d somehow missed this one until recently. Apparently it’s one of his best, though it’s occasionally uneven – you can sense the pressure of a writer working in the lowly field of SF, having to churn out books to pay the rent and stay afloat, but at the same time there’s a whole load of visionary genius. Some of the concepts are truly mindbending. Plus it’s really funny – just check out the bizarre outfits he dresses his characters in. I must read ‘Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?’ to see if he did the same thing with the outfits. Imagine how much better Blade Runner would have been if Harrison Ford was wearing a beenie hat with a little propeller on top.
Codex Seraphinianus-Luigi Serafini. A huge book, and bloody expensive, but beautifully produced with an unusual ridged paper stock, this is like an encyclopedia of an alien planet. You can’t exactly read it either, as all the text is in some indecipherable hand-written alien language. Mr. Serafini has gone to great lengths to make this all look convincing though, and the surreal pencil crayon illustrations of bizarre creatures, plant life and semi-human societies are very well done – a cross between Jim Woodring’s ‘Frank’ and the incredible animated film ‘Fantastic Planet’. Serafini claims that a mysterious white cat came to his apartment in Rome every day and told him what to write and draw. Sounds like bullshit to me.
FPI: Can you pick 3 TV shows or movies which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Krent: Guardians Of The Galaxy. I was expecting this to be like the usual Batman/Avengers crud, so this was a bit of a surprise. Although it did take me a day to realise quite how good it was – I guess it’s a common mistake to think that because something is bright, entertaining and fun, then it can’t be as good or worthy as a serious ‘artistic’ movie. Anyway, this was really funny, really clever, had lots of heart, and looked gorgeous. Some of the jokes and visual gags are genuinely hilarious. I should have known, really – it’s written and directed by the guy who did Slither (wicked horror film) and Super (a smarter, funnier Kick Ass).
Under The Skin. I was kind of wary about this, as it’s from one of my favourite books, but Jonathan Glazer (director of the brilliant Sexy Beast) did a great job, spending years working on it and getting it just right. He wisely chucked out most of the book – it would have been too disturbing, too long, and very hard to make it work on film- and simplified it down to the basics, the stuff that works as cinema. Beautifully filmed, cool sound design and music from Mica Levi, and an exceptional, brave performance from Scarlett Johansson. Killer ending too, when the spaceship comes down and the robots jump out and start shooting the cocks off them naked Glaswegians with laser beams (spoiler alert).
Beyond The Black Rainbow. It’s got some rather large flaws, it’s totally impenetrable, and it’s so slow in places that it almost stops dead, but it has some images and sequences that stay with you long after watching it. Great music too, by the synth twiddler out of the rock band Black Mountain, that sounds like John Carpenter meets Popol Vuh. The film looks stunning more than anything, with the vibe of a lost early eighties Cronenberg film, with cool sets and a stylised grainy image. Recommended if you can handle weird, druggy, hypnotic stuff.
FPI: How did 2014 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
Krent: I’ve been constantly busy doing paid work – commissions, illustrations etc. and haven’t had time to really concentrate on my comics work as much as I’d like. Comics are massively time-consuming for me and don’t really pay that much (if they pay at all). That said, I’ve managed to squeeze out around 20 pages of comics work this year – a short story for Soaring Penguin’s ‘Meanwhile No.2’ (INC.), a comic-type thing about Guantanamo Bay for Vice called ‘The A to Z Of Torture’, I drew a story called ‘Blatherington Manor’ for Dead Canary Comics ‘Fitzroy’ movie tie-in graphic novel, and a couple of pages for Satanic Mojo No.2. I also did a graphic novel cover for Your Days Are Numbered and some comic versions of famous paedos for Vice.
I guess the highlight of the year was having my work displayed in the Comics Unmasked exhibition at the British Library – that was something else, seeing my stuff behind glass like some ancient relic. Great to get a bit of recognition.
(“R is for Razor” from the A-Z of Torture by and (c) Krent Able)
FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2015?
Krent: More illustrations, and I’ve got a load of comics ideas I’ll be developing.
FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
(some panels from Lauren Monger’s Clementine Comix)
Krent: I quite the like the work of Lauren Monger, who does watercolour comics featuring characters with animal heads. Aaron Lange is good too, he does well-drawn, sick , funny, underground stuff. Both Americans, I think.